House Moves Quickly on Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives moved so quickly June 7th on a Legislative Branch Appropriations bill that Reps. Meehan (D-MA) and Waxman (D-CA) were unable to offer an amendment to make all public areas in the House office buildings smoke free.

However, an amendment by Rep. Jim Moran (D-VA) to eliminate the smoking area in one of the House cafeterias was included earlier as part of the bill and it may be possible to extend smoke free areas further when the legislative appropriations bill goes to conference between the House of Representatives and the Senate.

The American Lung Association staff had asked supporters to call their reps to support the smoke free amendment.

Later in the afternoon of the 7th the amendment was expected to be offered on the floor of the House for HR 5521, the referred to amendment.

“People who work in and visit the House of Representatives office buildings deserve the right to breathe clean indoor air,” said an Association rep. “Secondhand smoke causes an estimated 3,000 deaths from lung cancer and 35,000 deaths from heart disease.”

The amendment is called the Meehan-Waxman Amendment.

Secondhand smoke is the combination of smoke emitted from the burning ends of a tobacco product and the smoke exhaled from the lungs of tobacco users which is what killed activist and actress Dana Reeve on March 6th.

Secondhand smoke contains over 4,000 substances, more than 60 of which are known or suspected to cause cancer.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified secondhand smoke as a Group A carcinogen, a substance which is known to cause human cancer.

Exposure of the general U.S. population to secondhand smoke has declined dramatically since 1988-1991.

Thirty-seven percent of adult nonsmokers have reported that they either lived in a home with a smoker or that they inhale secondhand smoke while at work.

Secondhand smoke has become an occupational hazard for many workers, including casino, restaurant, bar, and hotel employees and younger workers were least likely to work under a smoke-free policy.

Fifteen million kids or nearly 22 percent of all children and teenagers were exposed to secondhand smoke in the home during 1996.

Nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke have been shown to have many of the same tobacco-related diseases as active smokers.

Before New York City implemented its smoke-free ordinance an air quality survey conducted by the New York State Department of Health found that air pollution levels in bars permitting smoking were as much as 50 times greater than pollution levels at the Holland Tunnel entrance during rush hour. New York City’s comprehensive smoke-free ordinance is one reason for the city’s 11 percent decline in smoking prevalence.

Secondhand smoke can cause many short-term effects such as coughing and nasal and eye irritation.

In California a group of 53 bartenders examined before and after the state’s smoke-free bar and tavern law went into effect were found to have a five to seven percent improvement in their overall pulmonary function just one month after the law’s implementation.

In Delaware a 2003 survey of air quality before and after the Delaware smoking ban concluded that the smoke-free law significantly reduced the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and respiratory disease among workers and patrons in the hospital industry.

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